Another Day Camper Drowns During a Swimming Field Trip

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Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatics Consultant ::::
Research indicates more than half of all drownings occurring in the United States happen when groups visit an aquatic facility. Larger groups, whether church groups, school groups, sport camps, day camps, or even birthday parties, all require special attention and extra Layers of Protection when visiting lifeguarded facilities.
Groups visiting swimming pools, particularly during open public swims, create an unforeseen hazard with a classic form of miscommunication. Typically, when camp counselors bring their charges to a guarded swimming pool they tend to relax and socialize rather than supervise their children because professional lifeguards are on duty. Conversely, lifeguards believe the counselors know their campers better than the lifeguards on duty and will watch the children in the water with vigilance. Unless specific “group use policies” are put into place prior to the pool visitation, rather than having double coverage of both lifeguards and counselors watching the campers in the water, double trouble results because no one is watching the children, assuming they’re someone else’s responsibility.
Continue reading “Another Day Camper Drowns During a Swimming Field Trip”

Boy Drowns in Hotel Pool, Lighting a Major Cause

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D, Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
A young boy attended a swimming pool gathering of playmates at a large downtown hotel in a major city. The pool was in an isolated portion of the hotel on the upper floors. While a husband and wife were in charge of watching the young boys play in the water, they also were taking care of their own small toddlers in and out of the swimming pool. The pool was characterized by a deep end (10 feet), which once housed a diving board. These pools are especially dangerous because too often, when a distressed swimmer finds themselves in the deep end, others in attendance cannot rescue them in a timely fashion. As it turned out, the boys were playing dangerous breath-holding games when one of the boys became unconscious and slipped beneath the surface in the deep end of the pool. Continue reading “Boy Drowns in Hotel Pool, Lighting a Major Cause”

College Swimmer and Hypoxic Training Results in Death

Aquatic Safety Expert

Thomas J. Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Consultant ::::
During an afternoon swim team practice, a national caliber swim team member was found unconscious lying on the bottom of the swimming pool by his coach. There were several confounding variables in this case. Plaintiff’s lawyers argued the coach had a duty to be on the pool deck 100% of the time during practice. In this case he was not, and only checked on his swimmers from time to time. The University claimed that since this was a voluntary practice following their official college swimming season, the swim coach was not required to be present on the pool deck. Even though there were very few swimmers working out in the swimming pool, a certified lifeguard was posted in an elevated lifeguard chair overseeing the practice. Although having a certified lifeguard on duty during a swim practice is strongly recommended, if not required, the defense expert claimed this was not always done.
Testimony suggested that the swimmer who died in this case told a team mate he was going to swim three lengths underwater. This is an extremely dangerous practice. No one in the swimming pool, including the lifeguard, saw the swimmer underwater until the swim coach came out of his office to speak with another swimmer. This is when the coach noticed vomitus floating on the surface at the deep end of the swimming pool. He then looked down to the bottom of the swimming pool and asked other swimmers in the water to see who or what was on the bottom. Immediately they discovered it was their teammate unconscious on the bottom and the rescue, recovery, and resuscitation efforts began in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, the competitive swimmer died. The autopsy found the swimmer had some genetic heart abnormalities that possibly were the primary cause of death. As one would imagine, the University defended themselves by stating the swimmer had serious medical problems predisposing him to sudden death in the water, he was engaging in a dangerous practice, and once a swimmer swims beneath the surface of the water, he is very difficult to detect by the most vigilant lifeguards, coaches, and teammates. Continue reading “College Swimmer and Hypoxic Training Results in Death”

Shallow Water Dangers

Shallow Water Dangers

Tom J. Griffiths, Ed.D, Aquatics Expert ::::
Recently, two separate but similar catastrophic diving cases settled for very large amounts for the plaintiffs.
In the first case, a young adult female suddenly ran off the pier and dove head first into a shallow lake to regain a paper, which escaped her possession. Her injury resulted in quadriplegia. The lake was at very low levels because of draught conditions, the pier was very long and wide, and the pier sat high above the surface of the lake. Although the pier did have “NO DIVING” signage posted, because the young women came off the lake on a boat and accessed the pier for the very first time, plaintiff argued the signs were pointed in the wrong direction for her to see. They were pointed towards land where most guests would access the pier. Plaintiff also argued the pier should have had protective railings or barriers to prevent dives and jumps from the pier.
The second case involved a middle-aged man celebrating his birthday with friends. Although this case was similar to the first one, this particular deck, surrounding a bar, had protective ropes along the perimeter of the deck adjacent to a lagoon. At one time “NO DIVING” signage was posted on pilings, but for some reason the signs were not there at the time of the incident. Plaintiff argued the ropes were not a barrier and there were no signs. The injured party in this case jumped and dove from the deck over the ropes just prior to his fateful dive. On his final head-first attempt, he broke his neck and was rendered quadriplegic. Continue reading “Shallow Water Dangers”

Are Non-Fatal Drownings Noteworthy?

Aquatic Safety Group

Tom J. Griffiths, ED.D. and Rachel Griffiths, Aquatic Safety Specialists ::::
The public and many water safety advocates are more than aware of the risk of fatal drowning, especially for children under the age of four, males, and African Americans. However, while focusing on fatalities, the frequency and significance of non-fatal drownings is often overlooked. Non-fatal drownings are just as devastating as fatal drowning, if not more so.
According to a Canadian Study presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention, non-fatal drowning has been estimated to be anywhere from twice to fifty times more common than fatal drownings.
As many as one third of all drowning survivors have sustained significant neurological damage due to anoxic encephalopathy. As a result, non-fatal drownings not only contribute significantly to the pain and suffering of the victim and family of the victim, but the financial burden of treating non-fatal drowning victims is astronomical. Continue reading “Are Non-Fatal Drownings Noteworthy?”

Woman struck by Boogie-Boarder

Tom J. Griffiths, ED.D., Aquatics Expert ::::
After checking into her hotel with her extended family, and spending considerable time on the beach observing the ocean and taking pictures, the plaintiff, a non-swimmer, was injured when she was struck by a boogie boarder shortly after she entered the water.
The plaintiff testified that she was enjoying the ocean waves by turning her back on them as they broke on her. When she did venture into the water, she spent most, if not all her time in knee deep water. The plaintiff testified that she observed the lifeguards on duty, some of the signs, and that she noticed the female boogie boarder repeatedly catching and riding waves.
The two lifeguards stationed nearby combined for nearly 50 years of lifeguarding experience on the shore. They were also both professional educators during the academic year. Continue reading “Woman struck by Boogie-Boarder”